Houston will play two tough series this week

A look at the big week ahead for the Astros

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After stumbling out to a 2-5 start, the Astros rebounded with a strong weekend performance, sweeping the A's in the weekend series to climb back up the AL West standings and get to .500 with a 5-5 record. This week, they'll have a chance to shake up the early, volatile standings even more, but it'll take as good, or better, games to come out ahead.

First, they'll stay at home for a three-game set against the Yankees, who are in a very similar spot. New York started their season 2-4 before sweeping the Orioles in Baltimore over the weekend, improving their record to 5-4 and moving them up to second in the AL East. Not only will the series be big for both teams because it's a potential playoff preview, but two of the three games will have the national spotlight with Monday and Tuesday night's games broadcast on ESPN.

Those two games will be nationally televised for good reason; Monday night we'll see the aces for both teams squaring off, with Justin Verlander on the mound for Houston and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. Then, Tuesday night we'll see Gerrit Cole go up against 24-year-old Jonathan Loaisiga. Verlander will look to improve to 2-0 on the season and rebound from his last start, a four-run four-inning outing in Arlington that luckily ended in a no-decision. Cole meanwhile will also look to improve his early-season numbers' he sits at 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA, getting little offense to back him in his two starts where he's gone six innings each and a combined 19 strikeouts.

Pitching matchups aside, these two offenses had great weekends and could easily give the pitching staffs grief with the Astros scoring 18 runs over their three-game set with Oakland and the Yankees exploding for 29 runs against Baltimore in their three games, 15 of those coming in their huge blowout on Sunday. One upside for the Astros is that the Yankees will be without Giancarlo Stanton who sits on the 10-day injured list with a bicep strain. That hasn't slowed them down at all, though, with Aaron Judge's power leading a potent lineup with great hitters like newly-signed DJ LeMahieu and young Gleyber Torres. As far as Houston's lineup, as mentioned they had a strong weekend with their top guys like George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa all coming through with some consistency and big hits.

It could be even more intriguing if the Astros could get some help from the Royals earlier in the week, but regardless, after Houston wraps up the series at home with the Yankees they'll travel to Seattle to take on the first-place Mariners who have gotten out to a red-hot start. After sweeping the two-game Japan opening series with the A's, the Mariners have since taken three out of four with the defending champion Red Sox and two out of three against the White Sox. At 9-2 with a couple of extra games under their belt compared to other teams, the Mariners sit atop the league, 3.5 games ahead of Houston.

Seattle has been winning games by brute force, working their way up to a +29 run differential on the early season after taking advantage of opposing pitches in multiple games. This will set up an intriguing start to the series on Friday night when we see Wade Miley on the mound, a pitcher who typically lives on getting outs in the field on weak contact. Saturday night we'll see Brad Peacock go up against Felix Hernandez, then Sunday it'll be Justin Verlander versus Marco Gonzalez to wrap up the series.

So, with a potential ALCS-level matchup to start the week, then trying to overthrow the current AL West division leader on the road over the weekend, the Astros have a big week ahead of them. Hopefully, they can use the momentum they created in the sweep against the A's this weekend because they'll need strong offense and strong pitching to come out of the week with a winning record. Hopefully, if they can manage that winning record, they may just end the week on top of the division standings.

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